10/22/2000, P19, Year B
veryone everywhere inwardly yearns to know the truth about God: Is he real? Does he care? Can he do anything? Can I know for sure? The truth is that we are not seeking him as much as he is seeking us.
In our text's effort to persuade first century Jews that Jesus was indeed their long expected Messiah it was important to delineate Christ's lineage. The author of our text, traditionally thought to be The Apostle Paul, identifies Jesus as a High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek, King of the village of Salem, which later became the City of Jerusalem, had been made a Priest by God. Genesis 14 does not explain why he was made a Priest other than he believed in the Same God of Creation who had called Abram, later Abraham, out of Ur (modern Kuwait) to the Promised Land of Palestine. King and Priest Melchizedek (King of Righteousness) gave Abram his blessing. Years later Moses' brother Aaron became the first High Priest of Israel of the order of Melchizedek. Solomon, second son of David and Bathsheba, was both King and Priest. In Jesus' Jerusalem there was a High Priest who was thought to have the authority of God to forgive sins through animal sacrifice. In our text we hear that Jesus is now our Great High Priest. Thus, Jesus became the one who takes our sin away, not through animal sacrifice but by his own sacrifice on the Cross. Lambs were perpetually sacrificed but Jesus was sacrificed once and for all time. Looking back on his sacrifice, we have the source of forgiveness and cleansing from sin.
Ordination into Priesthood was less formal in the first century. Most interpret Jesus' sending the Twelve out two by two to preach to the cities of the Jews as a type of ordination. Later he sent the extended group of several thousand disciples to proclaim salvation. We Methodists trace our Apostolic Succession back through John Wesley, the Anglicans, Catholics, the Apostles, Solomon and Aaron to Melchizedek. We also believe in the "Priesthood of All Believers." We feel that all are called to discover their place of service in ministry. Some from the general ministry of the baptized are called, trained and set aside for ordination as Elders. Sometimes Anglicans question our pedigree; but in turn, Catholics question theirs, and Baptists don't believe in anybody's Apostolic Succession, so we have a vicious cycle when we begin to question who is ordained and who can serve as a Priest. Typically, in today's ecumenical associations, we do not question any pastor's ordination, whether it be from an independent store front church or from a cathedral.
We believe that Jesus Christ is our Intercessory and Great High Priest (using Hebrew terminology) and that all sinners come equally to His Throne of Grace. Let's hear our text:
"Even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. And God designated him to be a High Priest in the line of Melchizedek." (v. 8-10, NLT).
Our text stresses both Jesus' divinity as God's Son and his humanity as a High Priest who could learn from his adversity. Our salvation is both contractually worked out in his sacrifice for sin, but Jesus' Cross is also a model of how we can grow from pain, and through the perpetual process of our daily confession and forgiveness. The cornerstone of most approaches to faith development and the sanctification of believers is that we gradually realize the Spirit's calling and plan for our lives through victory made possible by Grace. Once we have made it through a rough time, we can look back and see how Our Great High Priest really did see us through the ordeal. This should lead us to conclude, and believe, that the next time we are "between the rock and the hard place" we can eventually emerge victorious as we did in the prior time of difficulty. Indeed, the very next section of Hebrews moves on into this wonderful subject of spiritual growth where we are all challenged to grow from being babies in Christ, to mature disciples involved in a caring servant ministry. Christ did not call us to stand still, but to move forward in our pilgrimage.
This salvation and growth in relationship with God is not just for some select few but "for all those who obey him." (v. 9). In a world of exclusivity Christ calls all to follow Him. Just as Melchizedek passed on God's blessing to Abraham, we are called to pass on what we have experienced to others. The core of evangelism and servanthood is found in our joy in having the privilege of sharing Christ with the whole wide world. Are we truly patterning our ministry after Christ if we prevent the channel of Grace from flowing through us?
As I assisted in teaching the Certified Lay Speakers' Course for our District over the past five weeks, and as I prepare to teach an Evangelism Course in our Conference Leadership Class to be held at our church next Sunday afternoon, I am finding a lot of inspiration in our series from Hebrews. Public speaking (preaching) for Christ, and winning persons to faith in Christ, both require that, as Christ was called, we must feel a sense of calling also. "..no one can become a high priest simply because he (she) wants such an honor. He (she) has to be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was." (v. 4). Women, men, teenagers, and sometimes boys and girls can feel and know that God has a wonderful plan for their lives. And as we deal with the sin barrier that seems to keep us from realizing God's calling, we can begin to walk in the sunlight of His Grace.
I do not like to talk too much about my own calling, nor do I want to suggest that I am worthy of being an example in myself, but truly God has had a hand on my life. I felt Him churning inside of my soul as a child, but I resisted. As a teenager I felt that He was calling me to follow in my father's footsteps as a pastor, but I ignored the call. After experiencing adversity as a youth , that at the time seemed like the end of the world, I finally yielded to God's call to salvation and to ordained ministry at the age of 21. Life has been a blessing. In retrospect, the pitfalls turned out to be minor, and God has never failed me in any way. Thanks be unto God!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor